Urban renewal for Lionshead gaining steam | VailDaily.com

Urban renewal for Lionshead gaining steam

Stephen Lloyd Wood
Daily file photoLionshead was built largely in the 1970s. A plan drafted by community leaders that identifies many locations within the neighborhood as suitable for urban renewal is up for public discussion at Tuesday's Town Council meeting, beginning at 7 p.m.

A petition asking the Vail Town Council to create a what’s being called the Vail Reinvestment Authority will be the topic of a public hearing on Tuesday, according to a press release issued by the town this week. The document is among a series of steps required by the state’s urban renewal law for the eventual use of tax Increment financing, or TIF, to fund repairs to public property in areas within the town that meet the state’s qualifications for revitalization.

TIF overview

An overview, including an explanation of the funding mechanism, as well as impacts to property owners, will be presented during the hearing, which will take place at town hall, in the council’s chambers, beginning at 7 p.m. During meeting, members of the audience will be encouraged to ask questions and make comments.

“There are so many aspects to TIF that it is impossible to give a one answer fits all situations,” says Jim Lamont, who represents a significant number of property owners in Lionshead as executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association. “The most important point is that without TIF, the town of Vail will have a very difficult, if not impossible, task to finance the public infrastructure improvements necessary to underpin major redevelopment projects in Lionshead and Vail Village.”

Sixteen months in the making

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Filing of the petition follows more than 16 months of exploration and analysis by the nine-member Lionshead Task Force, which was formed in 2002 to provide recommendations to the Town Council on how best to fund improvements to Vail’s public infrastructure. Those improvements will coincide with millions of dollars in private reinvestment, led by Vail Resorts.

The task force – chaired by Mayor Ludwig Kurz and including fellow council members Diana Donovan, Bill Jewitt and Chuck Ogilby, Lamont, other community representatives, and Jack Hunn of Vail Resorts – recommends the council approve the authority.

“The members feel very confident that issues which were raised early on in the process, such as adverse condemnation powers, have been adequately addressed,” says Kurz. “The recommendation to move ahead is unanimous and carries the support of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, Vail Resorts and other significant properties.”

Documenting “blight’

As drafted, the plan identifies the Lionshead commercial core area as suitable for urban renewal due to documented conditions of various forms of “blight” on public property as defined by state statutes.

Other public hearings will follow in subsequent months as the authority considers adoption of the draft reinvestment study, which would then set the tax base for the Lionshead redevelopment area for the next 25 years.

“We’ve exhausted our studies and deliberations on the matter and we have some safeguards built in against URA condemnation, although there could be more,” says Lamont, calling the formation of such an authority a “necessary evil” in gaining legal protection in possible lawsuits filed by other taxing authorities. “We’ve reached the point where a decision has to be made and we are keenly aware there’s an overriding need to continue to monitor closely the impact of an urban renewal authority on private property values because of the stigma of condemnation.

“There’s a clear difference between urban renewal condemnation and a municipality’s standard condemnation authority,” Lamont adds. “In any event the community is taking a sizable risk and gamble by putting all their eggs in the URA/TIF basket.”

For more information, visit http://www.vailgov.com or call Russell Forrest in the town’s Community Development Department at 479-2146.

TIF not a tax

By Stephen Lloyd Wood

Tax incremental financing, or TIF, has been used in communities across the country and, according to members of the Lionshead Task Force, is appealing because it is not a tax increase nor a new tax.

Instead, TIF anticipates a corresponding growth in property values as a byproduct of redevelopment, thus enabling access to public improvement funds at the outset of construction.

“The whole matter of Urban Renewal Authorities is a very murky issue both in the law and in politics,” says Jim Lamont of the Vail Village Homeowners Association. “The only other option … is a communitywide property-tax increase.”

With TIF, the incremental growth in those taxes is returned directly to the neighborhood over a 25-year period, bypassing the other taxing districts – such as Eagle County, Colorado Mountain College and the town of Vail. As estimated, $500 million in private redevelopment ultimately would serve as the catalyst for Lionshead’s property-tax growth.

In addition, the reinvestment plan identifies use of TIF as the mechanism to pay for the public’s share of the improvements. With TIF, future anticipated tax-revenue growth associated with the area’s revitalization is used to issue bonds to immediately construct the public improvements identified in the reinvestment plan.

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